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Myrrh Resinoid

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Description

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Myrrh  is a natural gum or resin extracted from a number of small, thorny tree species of the genus Commiphora. Myrrh resin has been used throughout history as a perfume, incense, and medicine. Myrrh mixed with wine can also be ingested.

Extraction and production

When a tree’s wound penetrates through the bark and into the sapwood, the tree secretes a resin. Myrrh gum, like frankincense, is such a resin. When people harvest myrrh, they wound the trees repeatedly to bleed them of the gum. Myrrh gum is waxy and coagulates quickly. After the harvest, the gum becomes hard and glossy. The gum is yellowish and may be either clear or opaque. It darkens deeply as it ages, and white streaks emerge.

Myrrh gum is commonly harvested from the species Commiphora myrrha. Another commonly used name, Commiphora molmol, is now considered a synonym of Commiphora myrrha.

Commiphora myrrha is native to Somalia, Oman, Yemen, Eritrea, (Somali Region) of Ethiopia and parts of Saudi Arabia. Meetiga, the trade-name of Arabian Myrrh, is more brittle and gummy than the Somali variety and does not have the latter’s white markings.

The oleo gum resins of a number of other Commiphora species are also used as perfumes, medicines (such as aromatic wound dressings), and incense ingredients. These myrrh-like resins are known as opopanax, balsam, bdellium, guggul bisabol, and Indian myrrh.

Fragrant “myrrh beads” are made from the crushed seeds of Detarium microcarpum, an unrelated West African tree. These beads are traditionally worn by married women in Mali as multiple strands around the hips.

The name “myrrh” is also applied to the potherb Myrrhis odorata, otherwise known as “cicely” or “sweet cicely”.

Liquid myrrh, or stacte, written about by Pliny, was an ingredient of Jewish holy incense, and was formerly greatly valued but cannot now be identified in today’s markets.

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